Island Infernos by John C McManus

This is book two of John C McManus epic trilogy on the US Army in the Pacific War, the sequel to “Fire and Fortitude”. That makes it a bit of an oddity, no doubt the Pacific War is usually about the Navy and Marines. Army history usually means Europe.

Yet the scope of Army involvement in the Pacific is actually huge. Best known would be MacArthur and his war in the South Pacific. As Volume Two here is all about 1944, this starts in New Guinea with a series of battles north and west up the northern coast of that huge island. Well before the end of 1944 New Guinea had become a backwater, so really this is the climax of that massive campaign.

There is also a fair amount here about China. Joe Stillwell and Frank Merrill may be the best known names in this part of the book. This would be warfare on a shoestring. Merrill’s Marauders (5307th Composite Unit) made quite a name for themselves with fierce combat in Burma. This theater involved very few resources, which led to the Marauders being used and used up. 1944 is also the year China lost most of its influence in the ongoing War effort. It was nearly impossible to make anything happen there, and Chaing Kai-shek was more interested in the civil war he knew was coming. This last finally led to less investment from Washington and the whole theater getting less involvement.

There is a full chapter devoted to the POW experience. Again, this is about 1944 so apart from some shuffling around between camps most prisoners were simply trying to survive it out at this point.

Finally, the Central Pacific gets a fair amount of attention. The previous volume had dealt with more of the Solomons campaign, but this has the Marshall Islands, Marianas and Angaur. The Marianas especially is a big chapter, largely due to the big controversy of the Marine General in overall command (Holland Smith) relieving an Army Division commander (Ralph Smith). No surprise, as an Army history this book is much more sympathetic towards Ralph Smith. But I would add, that seems to be the more recent trend of it; the relief seems to have a product of impatience and incomplete information.

1944 also meant the Central and South Pacific Campaigns finally coming together in the Philippines. Just Leyte here, subsequent actions, big actions on Luzon and elsewhere in the archipelago will be in the trilogy’s final volume. But it is particularly interesting seeing some of the stage set for those bigger battles. Also interesting to have the focus here on ground operations, no surprise I usually read naval and air.

Overall I would rank this as an excellent and thorough history. Every corner of the conflict seems well explored. Major personalities are looked at closely and how the Army operations tie into the “big picture” of the Pacific War is quite well covered. I will look forward to Volume Three
I do have one big complaint though, the writer gets very hung up trying to apply modern sensitivities to things. He frequently judges actions and comments as a 21st century academic. It makes me laugh, and steam, when he goes off on the insensitivity and “dehumanizing” practice of calling people “natives”… Oh brother, what have we come to. I guess I’ll have to stop calling myself an Illinois native. This hypersensitivity, and even worse, applying one’s own understanding of words and assuming the worst of people who are no longer even around to defend themselves (or tell you how it really was!) just staggers me. I truly am worried for what is being taught as “history” anymore. My big fear is a latent disrespect of those who went before us. And this is creeping into what is a military history, by a man who clearly loves the subject matter.

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Churchill Mk VII Crocodile

The heaviest tank used by the western Allies, the Churchill Infantry Tank proved very useful in spite of some notable deficiencies.

Let’s take a quick look at an important part of the British arsenal.

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Posted in Armor, Britain | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Theme Build 4 – Complete


This group all represented captured fighters(ish). From very early until shortly after the War.
These were all fairly simple builds, only the Do 335 got a little complicated, but that was mainly due to a more involved finish (natural metal AND translucent paint covering previous markings).

Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3

Dewoitine D.520

Mitsubishi A6M2

Dornier Do 335A-12

I currently have enough captured aircraft I’d like to do that I can revisit this theme one more time. But it will be a while before I get back to it.
I’ll build a couple of tanks this summer before I return with a new theme.
Coming soon… Spitfire

Posted in Theme Build | 5 Comments

Dornier Do 335A-12 Anteater

The end of the War led to a lot of exciting acquisitions and a lot of flight tests.

Let’s look at a pretty outrageous German plane with an unlikely user.

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Posted in Germany, Trainer, USA | 13 Comments

Sneak Peak

What is Dave working on?

The bad news is, this is still a ways from being finished! But the good news is, it is coming…

Posted in Miscellaneous | 5 Comments

Supermarine Spitfire Mk VIIIc

The third most produced Mark of the famous Spitfire, the Mk VIII served exclusively outside of Great Britain. That mainly means Mediterranean , Pacific and CBI.

Let’s take a look at the late Merlin powered type.

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A Day at River Raisin National Battlefield

Memorial Day

Down in Monroe Michigan is a Park that commemorates a War of 1812 battlefield. Apparently, the only such in the United States.
It was certainly the worst defeat, worst massacre suffered by the fledgling nation until that time. On January 18, 1813 United States Army and militia forces under James Winchester (about 1000 men) drove the British and Native Americans out of the Frenchtown area (current day Monroe, this was part of a campaign involving battles in Detroit and nearby Canada). On January 22, British and Native American (about 1400 men) forces under General Henry Proctor retook the town. They mostly achieved complete surprise in spite of General Winchester receiving ample warning of enemy movement in the area. Kentucky militia, camped somewhat distant, acquitted themselves far better by holding out much longer. They were finally convinced to surrender by General Winchester himself, who was already in British custody, but only when they were clearly low on ammunition.
The next day General Procter took his British troops and able bodied prisoners back to Canada. Native American forces then massacred the wounded that had been left behind (between 30 and 100, depending on what sources we believe.
The three events are known as The 1st and 2nd Battles of Frenchtown (or 1st and 2nd Battles of River Raisin) and the River Raisin Massacre.

The battlefield is small, and really right in town. There’s not a lot to see, except for a Memorial Field set up with flags to honor those fallen. A half mile walking trail with markers for points of interest, circles the main battlefield. The River Raisin borders the area about 100 yards south.
The visitor center is new and quite nice with some interesting displays and an excellent diorama of the area right before the battle.
But there’s some serious bad news here too. The introductory films running continuously in the small theater are the worst, most one-sided and biased presentations I’ve ever seen at a US Park. The talking heads narrating the tale are ALL Native American. Apart from some lip service to the fact “atrocities were committed by both sides” they basically just make excuses for the well known massacre that happened here. The adult version of “they started it”. Seriously, you don’t have to know much American history to know settler/native relations were often terrible; and virtually any human being living in North America could find reasons to loathe “the other side” without looking very far. A more honestly balanced telling of the events would be much appreciated (several earlier atrocities by Native Americans were omitted from the story, and significant good deeds of the US Army were overlooked. Maybe they could have asked why the mostly French speaking residents of the area supported the US forces?). But now the woke US Government looks for ways to tell us all how shameful and ugly our own history is, with absolutely no effort to provide meaningful perspective. I felt very sad for those who work there, and angry with whoever is pushing and creating this nonsense.

At least is was a really nice day to walk the battlefield path…

How fitting is it to have a Hellraisin* Hellcat at the River Raisin Battlefield?!
  • actual Dodge color name!
Posted in Museums | 1 Comment

Mitsubishi A6M2 Model 21 Zero

One of the most famous captured aircraft of the War.

Let’s look at the story of a Zero that changed hands early in the Aleutians Campaign.

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Posted in Fighter, Japan, USA | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Consolidated B-24D Liberator

Tidal Wave

By mid-1943 the US Army Air Force strategic bombing mission was gaining in size and mass. Most often this means the great bomber formations of the 8th Air Force out of England.

But this time, let’s take a look at an early major operation out of North Africa.

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Posted in Bomber - Strategic, USA | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat

Another example of the far flung World at War, let’s take a look at the Wildcat in North Africa.

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Posted in Fighter, USA | Tagged , , | 14 Comments